Once I asked a falconer, “How come the red tail hawks hang out in the trees beside the Thruway?”
He didn’t know for sure. “Maybe the passing cars scare up prey,” he guessed. “Or maybe it’s warmer there.”
Today on the bus to New York City, I counted eleven red tails, another large raptor that might have been an owl, and one eagle. On the return trip, I spotted three more red tails. Two were a mating pair dancing circles in the sky.
It’s mating time now in early March. Soon the leaves will obscure the hawks perched in the trees. They’ll be hunting in earnest to feed fledglings. Later, in mid-summer, we’ll be hearing the shrieks of the young just learning to fly, still demanding to be fed by their harried parents.
I love the hawks. They lift my heart in awe that these birds continue their life cycles against the backdrop of shrinking habitat and pollution.
As I count hawks, the others on the bus do other things. Every few miles, the guy behind startles me with a horrible honking cough. A woman works on her laptop, while her nine-year-old daughter watches The Lady and the Tramp on her iPad.
The couple in front gets a lot of my speculation. He is shaved bald, portly, with a scraggly beard and glasses. The woman is Asian, appears younger. He asks if she wants to listen to a podcast together. She touches his cheek with fingernails painted gold.
Behind the girl and her mother, an African-American woman with amazing fingernails and enhanced eyelashes taps on her iPhone. She’s wearing a baseball cap and sweatpants. She looks kind. When her outlet loses electricity, I invite her to sit beside me, but she declines. I’m a little disappointed.
I imagine leaning across the aisle to invite the girl to count hawks with me. “You can watch that Disney movie anytime,” I’d say to her, “but now’s the best time to count hawks.”